Physics Stop

Archimedes principle: think carefully

Marcus Wilson Nov 14, 2014

Benjamin has recently acquired a 'new' book from Grandma and Grandad: Mr Archimedes' Bath (by Pamela Allen - here's the amazon link - the reviews are as interesting as the content). The story-line is reasonable guessable from the title. Mr Achimedes puts water into his bath, gets in, and the water overflows. What's going on? So we've … Read More

Help! There’s no equation to use

Marcus Wilson Nov 07, 2014

Today the University of Waikato is hosting a group of local secondary physics teachers. We've had an entertaining morning, with some sharing of ideas. As part of this, Rob Torrens, who teaches our large first-year engineering papers, talked a bit about life as a first-year engineering student. How does the school to university transition work? (or not.)   On … Read More

Toddler does physics-art

Marcus Wilson Oct 29, 2014

As we all know, a scientifically-minded toddler plus a piece of technology can lead to unexpected results. This is the result of Benjamin playing with a retractable steel tape measure at the weekend. How we came to break the case apart I don't know, but the results are pretty (the cellphone shot in poor light doesn't do justice to … Read More

Robot racing

Marcus Wilson Oct 22, 2014

The Engineering Design Show is currently in full swing here, with the competitions for the various design projects. The white-line followers kicked off proceedings. They were pretty impressive, with all but one team successfully being able to follow the (very squiggly) line without mistakes. There were traps to confuse the robots - the line got thinner and … Read More

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Getting the terminology correct

Marcus Wilson Oct 09, 2014

Yesterday I read a neat little report by one of our final year engineering students. As part of her final year project, she'd been looking at misconceptions in first-year students' thinking about electromagnetism. Learning about electric and magnetic fields isn't easy. For one thing, you can't actually see them. Therefore it's not at all obvious how something influences them. Read More

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Circling line-following robots

Marcus Wilson Sep 30, 2014

A few weeks ago I commented on a task our second year software-engineering students are doing: building robots to follow a white line with the Lego 'Mindstorm' kit. It's been entertaining watching their various attempts and their design selections. Most groups have pretty-well optimized their robot now, and there's some final tweaking going on, ahead of our … Read More

When energy conservation doesn’t add up (or does it?)

Marcus Wilson Sep 23, 2014

In the last few weeks holes have been popping up all over Cambridge. They are being dug by 'ditch-witches'  - pieces of machinery designed for making small-diameter tunnels for cabling - as part of the installation of fibre-optic cables for the much vaunted ultra-fast broadband. A ditch-witch is about the ultimate in machinery-obsessed-toddler heaven. We've been avidly … Read More

What do students expect at university?

Marcus Wilson Sep 05, 2014

I've been reviewing some papers for an engineering education conference this week. I can't go into detail about any of them, because I've been given them in confidence to look at, but they have provoked some thoughts about the nature of university. Students come to university, to study physics or engineering or whatever, and what is it they expect … Read More

Magnetic fields and USB sticks

Marcus Wilson Sep 03, 2014

Question: What does a rare-earth magnet do to a USB stick?  Answer: (Having accidentally carried out this experiment by having both in my desk drawer at the same time): It sticks to it. I was rather relieved to discover that the data on my USB stick seems to be perfectly intact, despite the casing of the stick … Read More

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